• Governor Rasanga says fees paid to lawyers was pegged on the value of the property at the time.
• The long-standing case was dismissed in 2018 following a petition by the county government.
A Senate watchdog committee on Thursday grilled Siaya Governor Cornel Rasanga over unexplained payment of legal fees, spending outside the budget and failure to update the revenue register.
The county chief was at pains to explain how the county government got embroiled in a Sh5 billion land dispute with a firm that cost taxpayers Sh9 million in legal fees.
Rasanga appeared before the Senate County Public Accounts and Investments Committee to respond to audit queries raised by Auditor General in his 2017-18 report.
According to the audit report on the financial expenditure of the county executive, this was Sh100 million less than the fee note generated by the county advocate.
The county had stated that the legal fees was pegged at Sh4.8 billion, which was the value of the disputed property at the time.
The report shows that the defunct Siaya County Council was entangled in a dispute with Walter Ominde in 2010 over the piece of land.
“The advocate's bill of Sh109.33 million also included an amount of Sh36.45 million described as increase by half advocate-client that has not been justified,” the report reads.
However, the county legal department did not provide documentation detailing the basis used to arrive at the value of the land, a copy of the remuneration order and calculation of the fee.
Rasanga explained that the legal fee was charged in accordance with the Advocates Remuneration (Amendment) Order 2014.
“The plaintiff in the pleadings filed before the court had put the value of the subject matter at $500 million (Sh5 billion)
But the committee chaired by Kisii Senator Sam Ongeri queried the rationale for the payment, with Senator James Orengo questioning how a piece of land could cost Sh5 billion in the rural county.
“You mean in Gem there is land worth $500 million? This is not possible,” Orengo said.
But the governor through Governance and Administration CEC Dismas Odhiambo said the value was quoted by the plaintiff in the court case.
Odhiambo explained they did not lose any money and that, in fact, they paid less that the quoted fees – Sh9 million - instead of Sh109 million.
“The county government’s advocates filed an application in court to have the matter dismissed for want of prosecution and the court granted the application and dismissed the matter on March 25, 2018,” the governor said.
Rasanga also found himself in a tight corner to justify why his administration spent Sh170.03 million on various development projects outside the budget.
The cash was incurred under the departments of Public Works and Water but were not captured in the 2017-18 budget.
“However, no evidence has been provided to indicate that relevant approvals were obtained from the county assembly as required,” the audit report reads.
The county chief said the various road projects were regularised in a supplementary budget in the 2017-18 financial year and were also captured in the 2017-18 Kenya Roads Board (KRB) work plans.
“The road projects listed amounting to Sh32.26 million were part of the approved work plan for the 2016-17 which were not executed and rolled over to 2017-18 for execution,” he said.
Edited by Henry Makori